CPSC – saving America’s children from lead and cylons one toy at a time

CPSC, saving America's children from lead and cylons

If you’re not familiar with the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) passed in the United States in August ’08 and set to come into effect on February 10th, 2009 you’re probably not the only one. The ‘popular’ Canadian news seems been rather quiet about the whole thing.  I heard about it only because I got an email from Small Magazine at the beginning of the month calling attention to it and its possible effect on small handmade toy companies. And then I forgot all about it:

The CPSIA rules now requires all children’s products, including natural handmade toys and clothing to be tested by a Third Party Lab, often at a cost of up to $4,000 per item. That could cost a small company more than $20,000 a season.

Small Magazine
Christine Visneau & Olivia Pintos-Lopez

I was reminded of it the other day when my publisher mentioned it in passing. (Apparently it effects books too – I did not know that.) However, If you are a small toy manufacturer, etsy artisan making toys and items for the under 12’s, or are a children’s book publisher in both Canada and the States, I’m sure you know about what’s going on.

With all that’s happening with the economy today, and all the promises this politician and that politician have been making in the United States about creating and keeping jobs in America, this act seems a hastily and poorly thought out solution to a very serious problem (lead levels found in some toys).  It also seems a little counter productive since many small handmade toy companies offer toys crafted of natural, sustainable or organic materials as alternatives to large mass marketed products that may be made of PVC, stuffed with synthetic petroleum-based fills or non-organic cotton or constructed from wood from non-sustainable sources. The act seems like a good start, but the execution seems a little off. Or at the very least, confusing. And that confusion isn’t helping things either. Especially where books are concerned.

From a Canadian perspective, what happens down south, has a huge impact on us in the north. Especially if you have anything to do with children’s books (which do not appear, at this time, to be  exempt). However, publishers are fighting the inclusion of books (and here’s an update on that article). But it’s already having an impact and at least one publisher that I’ve spoken to here in Canada who distributes books in the US has  started to feel the effects. In an industry as fragile as the Canadian children’s book industry is, this is not great news.

From the Publishers Weekly article linked above:


• The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act goes into effect February 10 and requires third-party testing of all products for children 12 and under, including books, audiobooks and sidelines. This includes older products on-shelf as well as books shipped after the deadline.

• AAP and other industry trade groups are lobbying to have print-on-paper and print-on-board books exempted. They also are looking for clarification on testing protocols and other specifics.

• If the Act stands as currently written and interpreted, significant costs and longer production times will negatively affect publishers and retailers, potentially putting some out of business and causing books to be removed from stores, libraries and schools.

• The industry is struggling to comply with the Act in time for the deadline, even as it waits for resolution and interpretation from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

For the latest updates and clarifications, go to www.cpsc.gov/about/Cpsia/cpsia.html.

Industry Scrambling to Comply with Child Safety Act
By Karen Raugust — Publishers Weekly

The passing of this act brings up so very many issues and arguments… And I could go on and on and on but they are perhaps more eloquently made by other people in the various discussions on this topic taking place elsewhere in the World Wide Inter-Tubes. And the point of this post wasn’t to get into all that anyway, believe it or not. In fact I’ve gone on much longer than I originally intended (as a sometimes-children’s book illustrator I am a bit attached to the industry so I get a little carried away). I meant instead to focus on CPSC’s inexplicable and ironic logo design.

If lead and phthalates look like us now, then nothing the CPSA can do will save us.

[Thank you to Darren who has impressive logo-recall powers and first noticed that the CPSA logo looked oddly familiar…]